By John Davis
OMAHA, Neb. – Ole Miss will be sleeping in a local hotel for a few more days, thanks to the Rebels’ most productive starter on the mound this season and a clutch hit from a hometown hero in John Gatlin.
Christian Trent posted another standout outing Tuesday afternoon against Texas Tech, logging eight innings of work, limiting the Red Raiders to no runs.
That may not have been good enough for him to earn the victory in the Rebels’ 2-1 win at TD Ameritrade Park, but his pitching kept it close in order for Gatlin to collect his game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth.
Gatlin, a former standout at Tupelo High and Itawamba Community College, lifted a pitch from Tech’s Dominic Moreno over the head of second baseman Bryant Burleson, clinching the Rebels’ first win in the College World Series since 1969.
The Rebels will now play Thursday night against TCU, which lost to Virginia, 3-2, in 15 innings Tuesday.
Gatlin’s big moment came less than 24 hours after learning about the death of his grandmother, and two days after Ole Miss lost to Virginia on a walk-off double. The hit, the win, and the subsequent moments after the RBI, brought tears to his eyes.
“One of the neat things in this profession is to be able to watch young men like John, who is a terrific, terrific representative of the university, have good things happen to them. It was neat to see him get a base hit to win it,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Gatlin, who only had 29 at bats coming into the elimination contest, said it was impressive to have so many guys contribute when called upon.
“I think we’re all prepared to get the job done and that goes back to the toughness that coach Bianco has been preaching all year,” Gatlin said.
Trent was definitely needed to deliver his best when called upon, and the Rebels (47-20) facing elimination. Bianco had faith that Trent, who struck out six against just one walk, would do exactly that.
“He’s done that all year long. He really hasn’t had a bad outing all year long,” Bianco said. “Even in the games where he’s gotten no decisions, he’s been terrific. I think that our guys have that confidence in him. Even if we lose our first game, I don’t know if there is a better guy in the country to run out there in Game 2 than Christian.”
Holt Perdzock, who put Ole Miss ahead in the seventh with a single down the third base line, backed up Bianco’s confidence in Trent.
“He was just amazing for us. He’s done that for us all year. What is he 10-0 now? It’s almost expected for him to go out and win,” Perdzock said.
Texas Tech tied the game with its lone run in the top of the ninth thanks a single, two stolen bases and sacrifice fly from pinch hitter Anthony Lyons.
Ole Miss rallied in the bottom half, with an out on the board, when Colby Bortles drew a walk and then advanced into scoring position via a Tech error. Aaron Greenwood then came in to pinch run, scoring on Gatlin’s single, one of just five hits for the Rebels.